Sustainable Tonewoods – Making Guitars More Environmentally Friendly


Last year, we published our guide on how to shop for an eco-friendly guitar. Time has passed since then, and brands are making headway in their sustainable manufacturing practices.

In particular, Taylor now opt for more unique woods and Martin are less picky with their cuts, meaning less goes to waste and more unusual timbral qualities are available to you.

So, what exactly are these brands doing to be more environmentally friendly?

Taylor’s eco-friendly woods

If you’re an acoustic connoisseur, you may have noticed the red ironbark used for Taylor’s new 512ce and 514ce.

Waste not, want not, right? Well, this attitude is becoming a propellor in guitar manufacturing, and Taylor guitars are no different. Red ironbark proves this.

How did Taylor discover red ironbark?

Taylor-514-and-512-cePart of Taylor’s urban wood initiative that works in collaboration with West Coast Arborists, Inc. (WCA), red ironbark may have otherwise been overlooked.

The WCA provide tree services to hundreds of towns and cities across California and Arizona. They manage these landscapes, bringing sustainable green spaces to urban areas and ensuring they’re well maintained. The process involves planting, caring for, and ultimately removing the trees.

Rather than disposing of unwanted trees, the WCA formed the Street Tree Revival, an urban wood recycling program.

Many species weren’t used commercially or for instruments, so chief guitar designer Andy Powers went to examine the wood to see if any would be suitable for guitars.

And, alas, they were!

He went back to the factory with a bundle of samples for deeper investigation.

Red ironbark was one of these samples.

Why not stick to the tonewoods we know and love?

If we use the same wood all the time, we would really be testing the earth’s natural resources. But if we get creative and look for tonewoods elsewhere, we make the most of what’s on offer to us.

Plus, you might be surprised at the unique properties of these woods! That’s exactly what happened when Andy stumbled upon red ironbark.

514ce-BackNot only is the decision to use this wood a lot kinder to the planet, but it also offers a range of qualities that you would struggle to find anywhere else.

Red ironbark’s properties

Red ironbark might be part of the eucalyptus family, but it behaves differently.

It’s hard and dense in its physical form, and, similar to rosewood, it dries easily with no distortion.

It’s also smooth and uniform in its texture, making it ideal for the back and sides of a guitar.

But what about its sound?

Well, it delivers the bell-like sound of rosewood, with a fuller, richer midrange.

Martin’s sustainable guitars

Other keen-eyed guitarists may have cottoned on to the unstained ebony that Martin have been rolling out on their new and existing guitars.


Unstained ebony

The slightest of spec changes, and yet the one with a significant impact, this alteration continues Martin’s mission to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Maintaining ebony’s natural colour for the fretboard not only looks striking and completely unique, but it’s also much more eco-friendly. Wood stains can emit volatile organic compounds (VOC) which pollute the air – not good for the planet or us!

These stains can also be the product of non-renewable resources and require a lot of energy to be produced.

It’s a no-brainer that taking ebony stain out of the equation is a step in the right direction when it comes to sustainable guitar manufacturing.

So, if you notice your fresh new Martin has a slightly marbled fretboard and is not completely consistent in colour, don’t be alarmed. This adds to the unique aesthetic that belongs to your guitar and your guitar only, and it means that no unnecessary pollutants are being released.

Don’t be picky!

It’s not just the natural colour of ebony that Martin are embracing, but every cut of ebony too. Well, nearly every cut.

In their endeavour to be as frugal as possible, Martin are less picky with the cuts of ebony they use, utilising ones that might otherwise go to waste. This doesn’t compromise any tonal qualities, however, it just means that nothing is thrown away unnecessarily.

Why shop more sustainably?

Martin-headstockSustainability might be the last thing on your list of priorities when shopping for a guitar. How it feels, how it sounds – these are the things you’re looking for. But having an awareness of what’s sustainable in the world of guitar manufacturing will always be a bonus.

Particularly when it comes to acoustic guitars, the sourcing of wood can have a huge impact on the planet, using its natural resources ‘til they run dry, devastating forests, and affecting local communities.

That’s why it’s important to support the practices that work against these damaging manufacturing processes. And following brands such as Taylor and Martin is a good way to do this.

From Taylor’s Ebony Project to Martin’s array of FSC-certified tonewoods, these two brands have set the standards for others to follow when it comes to sustainable guitar-making.

And with a fresh outlook on tonewoods comes a bright new future for environmentally friendly guitars.

Find out more

So, there you have it – some insight into how Taylor and Martin strive to be more eco-friendly. Their arrays of acoustic guitars are perfect for the eco-conscious musician, from beginner to pro. And, of course, we have their ranges ready and waiting for you.


Content Writer - Guitars

Maisie is a pianist who's interested in pop, rock, and the role of women in music. She spent her degree focusing on music journalism, specifically the way in which female artists are portrayed in the media. Sometimes, she plays guitar, but this is very rare.



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